Whirlwind: The Grimstones 3
Magical Martha Grimstone returns in a brand new adventure from one of Australia's most fascinating authors.
Hello, my name is Martha Grimstone. Shall I tell you my best secret? One day I'm going to be Lady Martha the Magnificent, when I finally realise my magical musical talent! I live in a grand old house in a valley full of rare and precious herbs, which Grandpa Grimstone uses to heal and comfort people. Mama makes beautiful clothes with love and care, and I hope to spin her some woollen fabric from my new Angora rabbits. I wish I had the easy gift of magic like my baby brother, Crumpet – but perhaps I am about to discover my own magnificence…
The Grimstones: Whirlwind is a gothic fairytale about a whirlwind that refuses to be stomped on, two feisty Angora rabbits and a disaster of exponential proportions that could be woven into something splendid. Join Martha on her enchanted journey and she discovers more about herself and her family than she could have ever imagined.
Asphyxia is a circus performer turned puppeteer and a writer. She is also deaf. Her name is unusual, but she is an unusual person! Asphyxia wrote her first book at twelve and entered it in the St Kilda Writers' Festival competition where it won first prize. Since then, she has been a ballerina, a circus performer, a puppeteer, and a creator of her own theatrical productions, where she tells stories physically and with sign language.
The Grimstones - Hatched and Mortimer Revealed have toured around Australia, including at the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane Writer's Festivals 2012, and overseas to great acclaim. Hatched and Mortimer Revealed, the first two books in the Grimstones series, are based on these shows.
Whirlwind: The Grimstones 3
Allen & Unwin Children's
Interview with Asphyxia
Question: What do you enjoy most about writing for children and teenagers?
Asphyxia: What I enjoy the most is the writing. I believe very strongly in not dumbing down stories for younger people, and I like to create stories and tell them in such a way that they will appeal to all ages. After being a performer for many years, which requires me to stand onstage and somehow sparkle, I love that I can go to work as a writer in bed in my pyjamas. I don't have to get dressed and I don't have to try and seem presentable to the world.
Question: Why did you develop stories suited to the gothic fairytale genre?
Asphyxia: I honestly don't know. But I do know that children, especially, seem to be drawn to gothic concepts and aesthetics. I think it's something about wanting to explore the taboo, to understand the topics we aren't supposed to talk about, to break the rules of conventional polite society. Certainly I love the aesthetic.
Question: Can you talk about your writing process – when, how, where?
Asphyxia: My favourite way to write: overnight I dream, scheme and plan for the book. I wake up, pull my laptop out from under my bed, and get to work. My partner delivers me breakfast in bed and a drink. I work until midday or beyond, then get up to wander around my garden in bare feet and see the sun. I'm lucky I often do work like that, but I also have some troubles with my back, which mean that these days I often try to be more conventional: get up, stretch, sit with perfect posture in ergonomic chair at desk the correct height, write for a couple of hours, stretch blah blah. It's tedious. But in truth when I do that my back lasts as long as it takes me to write the whole book and I end up less bleary. When I'm planning a book, I tend to let the ideas marinate, and I sit at my computer every now and then to jot down notes and refine the outline. Once I've got my clear and very detailed outline, I like to sit down and write the entire book in one go. I work for as many hours in a day as I possibly can, for as many days in a row as it takes, and I absolutely live in that world. Every breath and thought is as my main character. This process is exhausting though, and once it's over I'm both drained and relieved!
Question: What inspired you to become an artist and an author?
Asphyxia: Since I was a young girl, I've always been very creative. I especially loved making dolls, and thought perhaps Id have a doll shop when I grew up. I loved playing with dolls, even when I was a teenager and was supposed to have grown out of such a thing. I wrote my first novel when I was twelve, and I was so encouraged when it won first prize in St Kilda Writing competition that I began a secret dream of being a writer. I wrote prolifically throughout my teen years and stopped abruptly when I turned 18, because I suddenly felt self-conscious. I'm so glad I've managed to break through that, finally, and that two great loves of my life are now entwined with The Grimstones. I feel very fortunate to have found a vocation I am passionate about.
The seeds for The Grimstones were sown in Guatemala several years ago. On the street I saw a dreadlocked man, Sergio Barrios, performing with marionettes. I was captivated, for despite the rough appearance of his puppets, they were so expressive that they seemed to be alive. After the show, I stayed, and begged Sergio to share his skills with me. Lucky for me, he did.
The first puppet I made was Bronwyn, and she looked just like me. Performing with Bronwyn was like playing with dolls, which it seems I've never entirely grown out of! I'd been a circus performer for many years, but decided puppetry would be my way forward. Although my audiences loved Bronwyn, she was too small for some of the larger stages I performed on. I started thinking about another puppet show, something bigger, something gothic. In my teens I was an ardent goth, and it seems that's also something I haven't entirely grown out of.
I started sculpting with clay, just to see if I could make the kind of face I envisaged for my puppets, with big dark eyes, and my rough versions turned out even better than I dared to hope. I was hooked. I spent the next eighteen months holed up in my loft studio, creating my family of puppets and their miniature home. While I've always loved making things, I've never had any special training in the making of miniatures, so I had to invent as I went along. I wanted every aspect to be lifelike, and to look as if it had been created a hundred years ago. I knew audiences wouldn't be able to see each detail from the stage, but I didn't want the illusion to be shattered after the show, when they might come in close and discover it was all made of foam and cardboard. I wanted them to find more: titles of books, details of spells, little notes tacked to the walls.
After performing on stages around the world, I was asked by publishers Allen & Unwin to turn it into a book. I had the most magnificent time getting inside Martha Grimstone's head to help her write her diary. We could go into so much more detail than would ever be possible from the stage.
Question: What are you main challenges and how do you overcome them?
Asphyxia: My main challenges in life have centred around being deaf, and needing to make clear plans to run my business in a deaf friendly way. I think it's no accident I've always worked for myself. For an established organisation to incorporate a deaf person requires several challenges. As a performer, I've run my own company, and paid my own savings to get people to make phone calls for me, to get the bookings we need. I haven't waited to receive services to help or support me, I've just done it myself, and ultimately that's been a very effective and satisfying solution. It's only in the last several years I've been able to run a business myself through email alone it's a big boon for deaf people.